He won't go to bed.
He threw bath water over the edge of the tub, hit his brother, hit me, wouldn't put his pajamas on, wouldn't cooperate. Went to bed early, and now he keeps "escaping" - running to the edge of the sun room, just to stare at me until our eyes meet and he sprints back in his room, determining exactly how elastic the rules are.
I don't want this to be as important as it is.
I hate how much emphasis rests on socialization - how he will be valued outside of our home based on his ability to blend in, follow directions, be a part of the crowd. It's my job to socialize him, and if he can't function as part of a whole, it won't matter what else he has to offer, because his voice will never be heard. He has to learn to function within a system, to accept authority. The rules have to matter. Tonight, my job is to show him that's true (that part is almost always my job, because he wouldn't dare push the envelope if his dad were home). It matters a lot later, so it has to matter tonight, too.
So I follow through. Put him to bed early for his misdeeds, put him back in bed now. Because I'm the mom, and it's my job to socialize him, not because I really care so much about water over the tub.
But socialization and morality are a high wire, pulled tight against grace and freedom. How many adults do I know who are still caught in the lie that says salvation depends on the ability to be good? And how many continue to resist the Gospel because of the lie that God will always be angry at them for their misdeeds? How do I teach my children to function as part of a whole, and still acknowledge that there is no one good, not even one? What I care about - what matters to me - is that they grow up to understand the Gospel. How does that fit in with earning a smiley face on the behavior chart in preschool? It breaks my heart how much that stupid chart matters to him, how hard he tries to be "good" for his teacher. I know the extrinsic value, at least, of being seen as "good" in social settings, but everything in me wants to tell him, "It will never work, honey. There's no such thing."
How do I continue to teach him the law, so that he can be a fully functioning adult one day, while acknowledging that real life can only be found in grace?
The other day he climbed onto the couch beside me. It had been a day full of learning to accept authority, and he looked as frazzled as I felt. I pulled him onto my lap as he leaned into my arms. "Do you know what?" I said to him. "The best part about being a family is, no matter what kind of day we have had, we're all in this together."
I really don't know what I'm doing. I don't know how to raise boys who will grow into men who understand their worth as children of God. But I intend to find out.